GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The Long Island woman whose three daughters were killed in the tragedy on the Taconic State Parkway two years ago is sharing her story for the first time.
Jackie Hance reveals how she’s coping with the enormous loss, and she’s sharing incredible news about her future, reports CBS 2’s Dana Tyler.
The tragedy was incomprehensible. On July 26, 2009, eight people were killed in Mount Pleasant, N.Y., after Diane Schuler, driving five children home to Long Island after a weekend camping trip, went the wrong way on the Taconic and crashed into an SUV. Schuler’s sister-in-law, Hance, was the mother of Emma, Alyson and Katie, ages 8, 7 and 5, respectively, who were all killed. Hance opened up recently to “Ladies Home Journal.” In an article “The Worst Has Happened: Life After The Death Of My Children,” Hance shares her daughter’s final fateful words.
“On the drive back home, Emma, our oldest, called us from the car and said ‘something is wrong with Aunt Diane,’” Hance told the magazine. “I heard the other children crying in the background and then the phone cut out.”
There was a call back and a call to 911, but it was too late. The Hance children, Schuler, her daughter and three men in the SUV were killed. Only Schuler’s son, now 7, survived. Families were shattered and neighbors were stunned.
“When something terrible happens, your brain simply can’t process it — or at least mine couldn’t. For the first month I was so dazed with grief that I’d wander out of my room and out of the house at all hours. I don’t know what I was doing. Searching for the girls?” Hance said.
The Hance and Schuler families held funerals. A week later there was more stunning news for the grieving Floral Park couple. Toxicology reports revealed Schuler was driving with a blood-alcohol level double the legal limit and she’d been smoking marijuana. Hance says the extended family remains split.
“People always ask how I feel about Diane. How does a person go from being like a sister to me — adored by my girls and cherished by my husband — to being the one who ruined our lives? To not have any answers is torture,” Hance said.
She stopped going to church, though her faith has been restored in the kindness of strangers inspiring the Hances to set up a foundation in memory of their daughters.
“Parenting is not something you can ever let go of, even if your children are gone. Warren and I still celebrate the girls’ birthdays, just as we always did,” Hance said.
Hance had her tubes tied after Katie was born, but she decided to try in-vitro fertilization, calling it a message from God and her late daughters. Jackie and Warren Hance are expecting a baby this fall.
Jackie Hance told “Ladies Home Journal” she’s grateful for her friends and family who’ve gotten her through the worst and who first suggested that having a baby was what the girls would want and would give the couple a future.
She said people wonder how can a person go on after a tragedy like that. The answer is you have to.
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